Friday, September 5

Response to President Barron's Message on Civility

President Barron released an email and video today regarding civility that recognized it is our core values that are behind the words, "We Are Penn State."  My response to his email highlights the actions of those who do not share our core values and what he needs to do about them.

Dear President Barron,
Civility and respect go hand in hand.  Many of the alumni have felt the Board's attitude toward us has been very disrespectful -- in other words, not civil.

After the Board's decision to accept the NCAA sanctions, the alumni were told to "move forward" and the Board attempted to use new football coach Bill O'Brien and the football program as a means of divisiveness, with their ONE TEAM - MOVING FORWARD sloganeering.  In other words, those who didn't go along were labeled as being unsupportive of the football team and new coach.  It was a false argument, as many of the alumni, myself included, continued to support the football team while we tried to understand the reasons behind the Board's decisions.

The Board and the University  has been less than forthcoming in releasing information about the decisions made in response to the Sandusky scandal.  As a result, alumni like Ryan Bagwell and William Cluck have taken the step of making legal filings using the Right-To-Know laws with various agencies who interacted with PSU during the scandal to learn what happened.  And WE ARE learning.

In response to questions about the firing of Joe Paterno, the Board co-chairs issued a statement (in an email sent on January 12, 2012) that falsely stated legendary Coach Joe Paterno was not fired from Penn State and remained a tenured faculty member.  In April, ESPN printed a story that included a copy of Paterno's termination letter which was dated November 16, 2011.

On April 6, 2012, then Board Chair Karen Peetz sent out an email referring to grassroots groups of alumni who formed to find out more about the decisions as "dissident groups."  The email also stated that the "ESPN article not helpful."

These are just two examples (that I could readily find at 3:59 AM) of many that show the PSU Administration and the Board reneged on their promise of "openness and transparency" -- which has proven to be the biggest lie of all.

Like you, I too wish that those with differing opinions would treat each other with respect and have civil discourse.  Unfortunately, history (and emails) show that some of the leaders on the Board do not have the same values that caused our great University to rally around the words, "We Are Penn State."

When value systems are not in alignment, a leader has no choice but to remove those individuals who do not share the values of the University.  I learned that not only through my 25 years in management, but when I went back to PSU for an MBA from 2006 to 2008.

As Jim Collins wrote in Good to Great, the most important decision a leader can make is who is on his leadership team.  To wit:

"Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats."

It's time for you to get "the wrong people off the bus."

Raymond M. Blehar
Smeal MBA Class of 2008
Life Member, Penn State Alumni Association


  1. I agree, "Let's get the wrong people off the bus."

  2. Excellent, Ray. Could not have said it better.

  3. I admire you Penn Staters so much!

    (I recently purchased a shed built in PA, and took the opportunity to talk with the rep about the work you folks are doing. She was quite receptive, has kids who are PSU grads, and took down the name of this blog-site. I encouraged her to review it before voting in Nov!)

  4. Agreed Ray. President Barron has been a disappointment. His letter seems like the same kind of PR blunder the BoT has been committing throughout the Sandusky scandal. It did the opposite of its intended purpose.

    Barron's letter said "Debate and disagreement are critical constructs in the role of universities in testing ideas and promoting progress on complex issues."

    Yet Barron refuses to debate the key issues in the Sandusky scandal such as Paterno's firing, inaccuracies and limitations in the Freeh Report and unfairness of NCAA sanctions.

    I wish President Barron would explain how it was fair to fire Paterno with no due process yet merely place Paterno's boss, Curley, on administrative leave. Paterno was not charged with any crime and was a prosecution witness against Curley, who was charged with 2 crimes.

    1. President Barron put out a second statement to clarify the first statement. David "No Comment" LaTorre is having to earn his money today!

      Via Onward State....

      I thought I would respond to you directly. The letter, which comes from discussion at many levels in the University, arises from several examples. Let me give you a few. This spring, many commencement speakers at different universities across the country were disinvited or bowed out because groups exhibited outrage because they disagreed with actions taken by the speakers. That is incredibly unhealthy given that universities should be places where you are able to discuss ideas freely. Alumni candidates on both sides of the issues related to the Consent degree have complained that they were astounded by the rudeness of some of the comments they received. That is not exactly the message we want when we want to encourage strong candidates to run for office. We have donors who tell me this is a subject to avoid, or if they have spoken out loud about it, that they have lost their "feel good about Penn State" sense. That is a sad story. Some may think this letter is about a "side" or an event, but it isn't, and it would be good to re-read it. The letter is about making sure we can talk about important issues, and it stems from and accumulation of examples, some of which are national in scope.

      We will press President Barron for a civil discussion of important issues soon.

  5. University speakers causing campus outrage is nothing new and is unlikely to ever go away. US News and World Report gave 17 examples between 2002 and 2007.

    I don't see how Barron can forever avoid taking a position on the Sandusky scandal issues if hopes to heal the divisions.

    There is lots of room for middle ground, such as apologizing for firing Paterno and honoring him in some way, maybe at halftime. I don't see how a university gets much more uncivil than to fire a 60+ year employee by phone call with no due process.

    1. Barron can't take a position without angering either the people who vote on his budget, or the alumni who donate money to his university. He needs to remain neutral to be effective.

    2. I don't think Barron has remained neutral. He has essentially backed the party line of the BoT old guard by not disagreeing with it.

      The alumni voted in 9 trustees that do not support the consent decree and Freeh Report so why would alumni donations drop if Barron supported the alumni trustee position?

      Governor Corbett wanted to cut state support by over 50% under Spanier so Corbett isn't friendly to PSU anyway. Corbett may not even be governor next year.

    3. Tim,
      Miraculously (I'm joking), after Spanier was fired, Corbett kept PSU's budget level. I came across the email from Erickson to the BOT dated around July 3, 2012 stating the 2013 budget wasn't going to be reduced.

      You are correct. The 2012 budget proposal was a 50% cut to the appropriation, however, the legislature went with a much smaller cut. Spanier came out the winner in that battle, but as you might say, Corbett won the next battle.

      The "war" continues.

  6. say nothing about Frazier's arrogant interuption during public comment at a BOT meeting that the speaker, when citing perceived flaws in the Freeh effort, must be one of the few who actually believes O J Simpson was innocent.

    1. Warren,
      Yes. The height of incivility has been demonstrated by Ken Frazier, who not only shouted down Bill Cluck, but also did it to Al Clemens.